For Immediate Release: Tuesday August 17, 2010
Contact: El Comité Pro Reforma Migratoria Y Justicia Social and the May 1st Action Coalition, 253.347.4229 (Spanish) 360.556.7949 (English).
Over 300 Immigrant Rights Activists Take To The Streets In Conjunction With President Obama’s Visit To Seattle.
SEATTLE – Earlier today immigrant rights organizers and their allies in civil, human and labor rights initiated a high-energy rally and subsequent demonstration in conjunction with President Barack Obama’s visit to Seattle, his first since being elected. The event, organized primarily by El Comité Pro Reforma Migratoria y Justicia Social and the May 1st Action Coalition, marked the first such action in bringing to the fore the issue of immigrant worker rights during this contentious election season. According to an event spokesperson, Federico Martinez, “the intent is to draw attention to the plight of the immigrant community in wake of enforcement-first approaches to “Immigration Reform” which includes mass deportation, the “Secure Communities” program, the “287 (g)” Program, and E-Verify, among others. This also marks a point in which those of us who had hope in the presidency of Barack Obama are now seeing his actions and are trying to draw to his attention that this is not what we wanted him to be and that the issue is more important to us than him and we are willing to make the upcoming electoral season very interesting for his party if he doesn’t stop his enforcement-only tactic.”
The group initiated the day’s activities by marching from Westlake Park to a small triangle park adjacent to the Seattle Westin Hotel where Barack Obama would be speaking. Protesters, numbering approximately 300 participants, held a small rally in the triangle until they attempted to march on the sidewalks around the Westin Hotel where they were met by Seattle Police in front of the west entrance of the hotel who refused to let the protesters pass and began to push people back using their bikes. Protesters stood their ground. People refused to move and clashes ensued. The Seattle Police pushed demonstrators, including children, in a forceful manner, in effect escalating their tactics. Demonstrators moved back to the triangle and continued their rally. After the presidential convoy arrived at the hotel and the president made his way in, immigrant rights demonstrators again, attempted to march around the Westin Hotel where they were met by police once again who barricaded them from the hotel. As a result demonstrators marched down Westlake Avenue and marched in a circle, jamming traffic in defiance of the Seattle P.D. “We only saw a fraction of the repression our communities face. And we were willing to escalate our tactics due to the overwhelmingly harsh tactics that are used on our communities by the federal government.” said Sandy Restrepo, Secretary of El Comité Pro Reforma Migratoria Y Justicia Social.
“I’m upset that the police would come after us when we are gathered with our families and we are clearly here domonstrating peacefully. ” said Diana Lopez. “That’s endemic of what is happening in our communities. We can’t stand by and let ourselves be intimidated. ”
On November 5th, 2008 a wave of optimism flowed throughout the country with the election of Barack Obama. The framing of the “Hope” and “Change” messages resonated throughout after a conservative majority ran both the legislative and executive branches during most of former President Bush’s Administration. The message was especially symbolic in immigrant communities as mass strikes and demonstrations in the spring of 2006 helped turn back congressional efforts to implement H.R. 4437 (otherwise known as the Sensenbrenner Bill), which would have been the most draconian anti-immigrant legislation in generations and would have effectively criminalized all undocumented workers and their allies for providing them humanitarian aid. The election of a new President and a majority Democratic Congress pointed toward ameliorating the adverse conditions encountered under President Bush and the Republicans. This optimism was short-lived as little has been done and continuation and expansion of Bush-era immigration policy continues unabated.
As a result of these policies, the organizers, in addition to the demonstration, also drafted a letter asking that Barack Obama use an Executive Order mandating that the Department of Homeland Security make the E-Verify, 287 (g), and Secure Communities programs in addition to mass raids, a low priority. Three separate copies were handed over to Obama staffers by guests attending the event inside the Westin. As organizers noted, “we mobilized en masse to support the President and his party under the idea that they would take action in a manner consistent with securing civil, labor, and human rights in reformation of our immigration system. In turn, we demand an immediate cease to harsh enforcement-only policies without human and civil rights and are requesting that President Obama make said policy, which has failed our communities and the country in general, obsolete” The full text of the letter can be found at El Comité blog (http://elcomitewa.com/).
For more information, contact the following: El Comité Pro Reforma Migratoria Y Justicia Social and the May 1st Action Coalition, 253.347.4229 (Spanish) 360.556.7949 (English